Teacher-Scholar: The Journal of the State Comprehensive University


Pegeen Reichert Powell. Retention & Resistance: Writing Instruction and Students Who Leave. Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2013. 144 p. ISBN 9780874219302. $24.95 In Retention & Resistance: Writing Instruction and Students Who Leave, Pegeen Reichert Powell takes aim at the discourse of retention and argues faculty’s time spent on retention data is wasted: “The issue of retention reminds us of the forces in many of our students’ lives that we simply have no control over; their emotional and physical health, their financial situation, their family obligations, their changing desires and goals” (p. 13). Instead, she advocates for a kairotic pedagogy, in which faculty invest in learning students’ stories and “[treat] students who leave as individual problems to be solved, situations that require intervention” (p. 100). In its Greek root, “kairos” is about the right place in the right measure, and its importance to writing instruction has been argued by James Kinneavy and others. Reichert Powell offers three first-year composition student narratives from a grantfunded program where she served as coordinator of Student Faculty Partnership for Success. But rather than giving readers the stories of students who were successfully retained, Reichert Powell presents students whom her institution failed to retain. One of these students, Helen, left after her first semester. Another, Nathan, had been enrolled in a two-year college and a trade school but left to work full time. After losing his job, Nathan enrolled at Reichert Powell ’s college to continue his education. And the third, Cesar, left college after his first year. For Reichert Powell, the complex and unique circumstances of each of these students serves as justification for her suggestion that faculty and colleges and universities ought to do nothing institutionally to improve retention rates of students.